Rebel boys waiting for debut: Lacrosse team hoping to contend for first state tournament berth

The closed-door meeting was held with an important topic at the forefront.

Champlin Park senior Dylan Saline goes through a drill during practice April 17 inside the school fieldhouse. The Rebels were hoping to start their season at Blaine April 24. (Sun Post staff photo by Nick Clark)

Champlin Park senior Dylan Saline goes through a drill during practice April 17 inside the school fieldhouse. The Rebels were hoping to start their season at Blaine April 24. (Sun Post staff photo by Nick Clark)

Champlin Park senior Ryan McNeil fends off a defender during boys lacrosse practice April 17. McNeil scored 33 goals for the Rebels last year. (Sun Post staff photo by Nick Clark)

Champlin Park senior Ryan McNeil fends off a defender during boys lacrosse practice April 17. McNeil scored 33 goals for the Rebels last year. (Sun Post staff photo by Nick Clark)

For the better part of the last month, the Champlin Park boys lacrosse coaches had overloaded the players with where the X’s and O’s are intended to go, what the tempo in which they play with can determine, and with who they were likely going to move forward with on the varsity roster.

They had dissected it all, with nearly every second of the preparation coming in an enclosed gym.

There was something missing though, something that the guys were in dire need of, and something that was to be discussed in private.

“We covered about as much as we can cover,” said Rebels head coach Eric Borer. “We’ve done a lot of walkthroughs and film study and we’ve had position meetings. It’s all kind of boring, so we talked about how are we going to keep this fresh and fun? I don’t think we’ve done anything fun in a while. This has to be fun too.”

From the player’s perspective, there are definitely separate layers to what they would classify as fun.

Last week was supposed to be the start of the real fun. The Rebels had a game scheduled for April 24 in Maple Grove. Prospects of a dreary night of rain and wind however forced its postponement.

So once again, as has been the case since the very start of practice this so-called spring, the team was relegated to the fieldhouse inside their high school.

Classifying the disappointment as fun was a stretch, but they vowed to make the best of what has been a frustrating start to a season they have been waiting for ever since a one-goal loss to eventual state runner-up Eden Prairie ended last year’s impressive season.

“We know what we have to do,” said senior midfielder Connor Smith. “Coming back into the gym again is driving us nuts, but everyone is pushing each other to get better.  We try to make it fun. We goof around every once and awhile, but we know we have to be ready to go.”

The impetus on being ready could be heightened should the season actually begin this week.

If the schedule holds, Champlin Park will open its season at Blaine April 24 in a debut for both teams that, by seasons end, could determine both the Northwest Suburban Conference champion, and the No. 1 seed in the Section 7 tournament, which is part of what is now an expanded lacrosse postseason that will include eight state tournament teams instead of four.

The Rebels have never qualified for a state tournament in boys lacrosse.

“We want to prove ourselves, and that would be a great way to do it,” said senior goalkeeper Joey Dokken. “Our goal is to get to state.”

The team appears to have the make-up to strive for such lofty expectations. The bulk of last year’s team returns intact, including 33-goal scorer Ryan McNeil and 20-goal scorer Luke Dalman.

Smith, who netted 15 goals last year, leads a midfield that Borer said is much improved this year. The defense is stocked with experience, and both Dokken and junior Bryce Plunkett return as goaltenders.

“We have skill, but we also have an intangible with our guys,” said Borer. “They can go out and just play because they have that chemistry with each other. They can come up with some plays that are not necessarily coached. It comes from that comfort level and that chemistry that they get from playing lacrosse together for a really long time.”

Now they just hope to can play together this time.

They’ve already lost what the coaches considered a vital scrimmage with Minnetonka, plus games against Blake, Maple Grove and Anoka.

Should the Rebels open up this week, they would have 11 games still on the schedule, and a month to get them in.

“They just want to play,” said Borer. “It is frustrating as coaches, but for them, they have to hate the way this has gone. But they’ve stayed pretty positive. They are excited. They are taking it seriously. But it is tough to see how hungry they are and then have them go in the gym to practice.”

 

Contact Nick Clark at nick.clark@ecm-inc.com

 
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